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Sector’s Disappointment at Chancellors Spring Budget

CARE providers, and industry bodies have reacted with dismay to the Chancellor’s spring budget yesterday (March 15).

The Independent Care Group (ICG) says there was nothing in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s speech to tackle the 1.6m people who cannot get the care they need.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “I’ll add an extra ‘E’ to Mr Hunt’s list and that is, ‘Excluded’.

“There was nothing in the budget to tackle the rationing of care, help us to recruit the 165,000 staff needed or support those unpaid carers who are giving up so much to help others.

“It was another opportunity missed. With a rare, £30bn fiscal windfall, the Chancellor had an opportunity to give social care the minimum £7bn a year extra he has previously admitted the sector needs.”

The ICG says more money is needed to pay frontline care staff better, so that the sector can tackle the 165,000 staff vacancies in the sector.

“Care and nursing homes and homecare providers are struggling and closing and more and more people are going to end up going without the care they need,” Mr Padgham added.

“Government after government, of all political colour, have failed to tackle the crisis in the sector. On social care this Government, like all others before it, has failed to fix the roof while the sun was shining.”

In the past, when he was Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Mr Hunt said social care needed at least an extra £7bn a year “just to stand still”.
Mr Padgham added: “Mr Hunt seems to have forgotten that pledge and instead left social care to continue to struggle.”

“Ignores the Critical Role that Care and Support Plays”
Professor Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the NCF said: “The next General Election has to take place by the end of 2024, and the announcements made today are those that the government is banking on making a tangible difference by then.

“Making working in care more affordable is absolutely the right thing to do. Two elements of today’s budget support that ambition, and we welcome both the increased availability of funded childcare and the extension of the Energy Price Guarantee to ensure that households are not faced with further catastrophic increases in energy bills. However, we are disappointed that there is no further tailored support for the catastrophic energy costs being faced by all of our not-for-profit members.

“The recognition that workers over 50 are an integral part of the workforce is welcome, but the government has missed a massive opportunity to lay out clear strategy for investing in a fully funded workforce plan that enables the care workforce to be paid at a rate that recognises their skills, knowledge and expertise.

“The focus on getting the nation working reveals an obvious gap in the Chancellor’s logic. Carers UK suggests that 41% of those who became carers in the last decade are aged between 45 and 65, prime working age according to the Chancellor. Therefore, supporting their ability to stay in the workforce by increasing both the support to carers, and the availability of high-quality care through a sustainable social care sector, should surely be a fundamental tenet of the Chancellor’s announcements.

Let’s remember that the funding announced in the Autumn statement was never sufficient to stabilise the sector, never mind reform it; care providers said it, Local Government said it, representatives of those receiving care and support said it – and the Chancellor himself would have said it were he still wearing his hat as the Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

“To ignore the critical role that care and support plays in supporting people into employment, to remain in employment and to stimulate the local economy is an own goal for the government. If you want to make work work, then you need to make care work – and you need to do it now.”
Missed Opportunity
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says: “The Autumn Statement announced £7.5 billion for the social care sector over the next two years, aimed at creating an additional 200,000 new care packages, supporting the discharge of people from hospital to ease NHS backlog, whilst also being split across adult and child services. Care England’s recent Fair Cost of Care analysis shows that, even with this funding, the deficit for older person’s residential and nursing home stands at around £2bn per annum. While the £7.5bn represented a step in the right direction, the Spring Budget was an opportunity to reinforce this progress and move towards a sustainable funding settlement for the sector. It was an opportunity that, unfortunately, the Government did not take, with a notable lack of any announcements targeted at the sector. Against the backdrop of a workforce crisis and rising vacancies, the rising cost of living and increasing energy costs, the stabilisation of the adult social care sector should be the Government’s priority in the coming months. The NHS cannot survive in the long term if the social care sector is unsustainable. A political consensus must be forged on how to fund and support our vital sector sustainably over the long term.”

In his announcement of the Spring Budget today, the Chancellor set out measures including scrapping the lifetime allowance on tax-free pension contributions; the expansion of 30 hours of free childcare a week for working parents to cover children below the age of three; a £27bn tax cut for business through a new ‘full expensing’ policy and capital allowances reform; and, funding for up to 50,000 places on new voluntary employment scheme for disabled people, called Universal Support. Other notable announcements included the freezing of fuel duty for another year and the extension of domestic energy support for a further 3 months, limiting typical household energy bills to £2,500 a year.

Martin Green added: “Social care is vital for the future of local people and local economies. It supports some of society’s most vulnerable, often living with lifelong conditions and is a source of employment for millions of hardworking, dedicated people across England. Social care must become a priority for the country. With an ageing population and demand for services to increase, the Government requires a sustainable roadmap for the social care sector that will meet the country’s social needs and support the NHS in reducing waiting lists. Care England will continue to work pragmatically to present solutions which seek to resolve the issues faced by all those within the sector and those who draw on care and support. Investment in the sector is key and will only be achieved with a clear long-term care strategy which is properly funded, and we hope that the forthcoming Implementation Plan, due to be published in Spring, delivers on this.”
Ignores Workforce
Tim Cooper, CEO of national disability charity United Response, said: “It is unthinkable that a focus on supporting the labour market ignores the ongoing workforce crisis which is hitting the social care sector.”
“This does not have to be a missed opportunity, the government can and must invest in this vital sector to ensure a sustainable system fit for current needs.”
“To reflect the importance of social care the government needs to ensure pay parity between social care and NHS staff and class social care as a special occupation, which would allow people in these roles to work more than 16 hours and still be eligible for benefits. The Government should ensure that agency costs for social care are VAT free, as they already are for the NHS.”
“The funding to support young people with special educational needs into work is a welcome step forward in our campaign for an inclusive education, employment and skills system.”